Interview with Celeste Harmer

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It was a children's book that my father gave me in kindergarten. I was so young that I could only read a few words of it. But it fascinated me and showed me that I could create worlds with words.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! When I was sixteen years old, as a way of filling and long and lonely summer, I wrote -- by hand! -- a romance novel that was strongly based on the dime-store romance novels I had a penchant forreading at the time. I still have this manuscript, and I enjoy visiting it from time to time to see how my writing has changed/stayed the same since I wrote it decades ago. Considering I was only sixteen years old at the time, I think it's very strong and well-written
What is your writing process?
I type random ideas into a Word document. When I feel I have enough of them, I organize them into a chronological timeline that I use as a road map as I write. I write during quiet times of the day, such as late at night or during the day when my husband is at work. I try not to write if I feel burned out from a lengthy spell of writing, as this fatigue will show through in my work. To prevent this, I'll skip a day or two of writing and then come back a few days later, ready to work and raring to go.
How do you approach cover design?
I put the images together in my head. Having been trained as an artist, I'll sketch a few thumbnails and mock-ups, too. I consider what types of fonts and colors best express my book and its topic matter, and I go with them.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire is a huge favorite of mine because like my book Elmwood, it's an elegy for a world that is now gone. Memoirs of a Geisha is also a favorite. I also like many biographies, autobiographies, and true-crime books, especially the books written by George Anastasia on the Philadelphia Mob.
What do you read for pleasure?
I'm a Cold War-history buff, so I like to read books about the Cold War and how many countries, especially those in Eastern Europe, were impacted by it. This has a lot to do with the fact that I'm of Slavic descent, and the Cold War directly affected my people. I also like to read biographies on my favorite celebrities, and I enjoy reading children's books, too!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth, Facebook, and Twitter. My writings are targeted toward the people I grew up with and their friends, and these outlets are the best ways of reaching them.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've always used the Kindle app on my Smartphone, but I recently got a tablet and am having lots of fun with it!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've always used the Kindle app on my Smartphone, but I recently got a tablet and am having lots of fun with it!
Describe your desk
Neat and organized with the exception of the pile of papers on top of my printer that mysteriously grows and comes from I'm not sure where!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I'm a native of the Elmwood section of Southwest Philadelphia and grew up in the neighboring suburban town of Sharon Hill. But actually, I grew up in both places because I spent a lot of time in Southwest Philadelphia with my grandparents, who lived there for many years. My upbringing was solidly Catholic, working-class, and Southwest Philadelphia-centered. I have combined all these elements into my first book.
When did you first start writing?
When I was very young, around first or second grade. I would write and illustrate little books for my own amusement. Sometimes they were stories I made up; other times, they were fairy tales. I would especially love to write and illustrate Cinderella books, as Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale. I just kept going with writing, and now here I am, an adult with my first novel!
What's the story behind your latest book?
It was influenced by the portion of my childhood that I spent in the Elmwood secction of Southwest Philly in the Eighties. The culture of Elmwood at that time was vibrant. Also, tumultuous world events were playing out that influenced the drama of the era. When I looked back on that era of my life, I knew there was a book in there somewhere. I wrote it, and here it is on Smashwords!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
First, I knew no New York publisher would even touch a manuscript that dealt with working-class Catholics, as it probably wouldn't serve its political or cultural agendas to do so. The smaller publishers in Philadelphia might have been amenable to publishing a novel set in one of the working-class districts of the city, but my fear was that it would insist on changing vital elements of my novel in order to better tailor it to its readership. In the end, the finished product wouldn't even resemble anything I had written. Another concern was that the publisher would fail to market my novel to its target demographic: those who had come of age in Southwest Philadelphia or in the working-class Philadelphia suburbs in the 80s. As a final concern, there was no guarantee the publisher would market my novel as thoroughly and as aggressively as I desired.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
To be able to take a story that is near and dear to my heart and put it out there for others to read and hopefully to love. Also, I am overjoyed, through my writing, to preserve for posterity a world and a culture that are now gone.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are the people for whom I have written my novel. It was people like them who inspired it and made it happen; I'm merely an observer putting it all into written form.
What are you working on next?
Probably a sequel to my first book. I'll ask my adoring fans what they would like the sequel to be about, as it can take any number of forms.
Who are your favorite authors?
I don't have favorite authors as much as I do favorite genres of books. I previously mentioned Carlos Eire and George Anastasia as my favorite authors, so I'll go with them.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The mental list I prepare the night before of things to do the next day. Sometimes writing is on the list; sometimes it isn't. I try to lead a regimented life.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Usually working at my jobs, doing housework, or playing with my cats.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually by word of mouth. Someone will recommend a book, and I'll download it if I feel it's something worth paying for.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
By helping me at every step along the way and patiently and happily answering any questions I have regarding my book.
Published 2017-10-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.